"policies" Blog Tag

Coronavirus – Jaws or Y2K?

March 12th, 2020


Coronavirus – Jaws or Y2K*?

For you the employer, for you the HR Director, for you the person in charge of paid leave and benefits and payroll and who everyone turns to when no one knows what to do: is COVID-19 much ado about nothing or will you need a bigger boat?

If you answered bigger boat, below is a list of articles, blogs, podcasts, briefings and audio files from our authors, Chambers of Commerce we work with, the Centers for Disease Control, the EPA, recognized experts in HR and others.

Click the state name for material specific to you. The state is followed by the author(s) of the resources and/or contact in case you have a pressing legal need.

*For those of you around for the changing of the millennia, Y2K was a synonym for the upcoming computer apocalypse, which would in turn cause the meltdown of the workplace as we knew it. Until it was the new millennia. And then it wasn't an apocalypse or a meltdown.

For those of you around in 1975, there was this shark, a big shark, but you figured Robert Shaw and Roy Scheider (and Richard Dreyfuss to a lesser extent) could handle it. Until Roy saw the shark.

Ten steps for employers to consider during the coronavirus outbreak

March 10th, 2020

Kathy Speaker MacNett at SkarlatosZonarich

Employers are asking what measures should be implemented in response to the Coronavirus – COVID-19 outbreak.  Some are even questioning if they need a separate Coronavirus policy for their employees. Consider instead utilizing the employment laws and established Human Resources tools already in place, and supplementing with additional policies applicable to this crisis and future health care crises, only as needed.

The Coronavirus has caused some 3,800 deaths as of this writing; and continues to spread causing wide-spread concern inside and outside of the workplace.  Employers can and should implement positive steps, without causing panic. 

Kathy Speaker MacNett recommends consideration of the following ten steps:

OH: What your workplace can do right now to prepare for COVID-19

March 9th, 2020

Michael Karst at Kastner Westman & Wilkins

Name three things you can do right now to prepare for COVID-19.

Michael Karst has four, so just go ahead and use his list.

Dr. Love(less) he don't need no office life

February 14th, 2020

Robin Shea at Constangy

The past two years, Robin Shea at Constangy has been kind enough to share her interview with Dr. Loveless, renowned advice columnist to . . . those of us who chose the office life. And sometimes those who don't. As long as it pays. Whatever.

This year, Amour De Docteur takes a shot at diagnosing:

  • how not to get called into HR for sexual harassment because "call you soon" means something different to your work colleague 
  • lookback LGBT discrimination
  • live-in relationship: commitment, sleeping dogs lying around or nepotism?
  • is a JD a real doctor, loveless or not?
  • suspicion.

(Yes, the title of this blog is an actual line from the lyrics of "Dr. Love" by heavy glam metal disco ballad rock band Kiss.)

The impact of Super Bowl(ing) Part Deux

January 28th, 2020

Rich Meneghello, Anthony Isola and Spring Taylor at Fisher Phillips

Chief among the 49er so factors to take into account when dealing with how the Super Bowl can/will affect your place of employment are these four (five for those of you in or around KC or San Fran):

  1. Gambling in the workplace
  2. Productivity
  3. Dress codes
  4. Monday morning absences
  5. Championship parade.

Rich Meneghello (longtime hrsimple.com contributor), Anthony Isola and Spring Taylor (who in no way condoned, particpated in or encouraged any of the 13.9 million workers who called in "sick" or used PTO the day after last year's Super Bowl LIII but will in no way stipulate to same for LIV) help alleviate any headache or hangover, super or otherwise.

PS - Anyone besides me wondering why Liv Tyler isn't a part of the Super Bowl LIV festivities?

PPS - Click the image above for some super (full-contact) bowling.

Sometimes being an employer is a little like being a parent - you think you are supposed to be in control but then come to find out maybe not.

Chad Horton explains how the NLRB says maybe you can be the boss of them. At least some of the time.


OR Required break for a meal. Period.

November 26th, 2019

Jean Ohman Back and Tom Payne at Schwabe

Don't care what you call it - lunch, meal, snack, dinner - you have to require your Oregon employees to take a meal period. Not only do you have to provide the opportunity, you have to require they take an uninterupted 30-minute meal period. And you, as the emplooyer, have to be able to prove that the employee took their meal period.

The Oregon Court of Appeals found that employers "are in a unique position to enforce mandatory meal periods necessary for the perservation of the health of employees." No word yet on night-time curfews, bed checks or mandatory story-and-a-tuck-in.

Jean Ohman Back and Tom Payne provide more.

If you got your social media policy from Walmart, beware

September 26th, 2019

Fiona Ong at Shawe Rosenthal

Once upon a time there was a social media policy in the land of Walmart. And the rulers of Walmart wanted to know that it was a just and fair policy, so they asked the gods that ruled their lives (Nike, Loki, Rhea, and Bacchus) to pass judgement.

So was born Operations-Management Memo 12-59, which proclaimed "the entire social media policy, as revised, is lawful". There was great rejoicing and much blithe moving in the land of Walmart and all lands, for now everone knew what was what. 

And all was good.

Operative word being "was".

Our own Themis Fiona Ong discovers that the same social media policy can be both lawful and unlawful, especially if you got it from Walmart. 

Politics in the workplace is like Malört in ice cream

September 4th, 2019

Robin Shea at Constangy

For those of you who do not live in Chicago, Malört* is a wormwood-based schnapps. Yum, right?

Same with discussing politics in the workplace – it can leave a nasty taste in your mouth**.

Robin Shea lays out nine tips for keeping workplace political discussion under control.

* Full disclosure – I had Malört ice cream this past weekend at Black Dog Gelato.

** “Malört tastes like a baby aspirin wrapped in a grapefruit peel, bound with rubber bands and then soaked in well gin.” — Sam Mechling, marketing director for Jeppson’s Malört, to Inked magazine.

IL Tidal wave (or tsunami) of new laws for Illinois employers

August 15th, 2019

David Moore and Peter Gillespie at Laner Muchin

Look, I am not one to argue with attorneys because you never know when you might need one, so you decide for yourself the correct roaring-wall-of-water metaphor.

Regardless, any Illinois employer that either has or deals with:

  • employee handbooks
  • confidentiality
  • cannabis
  • policies
  • salary (history, sharing info, pay equity)
  • REQUIRED ANNUAL TRAINING (sexual harassment)
  • employees (probably should have just lead with that)

would be well advised (attorney-speak for "just do it") to read what David Moore and Peter Gillespie have to say and then execute said prescribed actions elucidated (attorney-speak for "just do it") (attorneys have a rather extensive alternative vocabulary).

No-match letters from the SSA - read and understand, then react

May 22nd, 2019

Davis Bae, Shanon Stevenson and Jeffrey Winchester at Fisher Phillips

That no-match letter from the Social Security Administration is not them breaking up with you (come on, who else who would date them? and that is no reflection on you - really). 

That letter is to let you know that you have a whole bunch of work in front of you trying to figure out why some of the employee information you sent them doesn't match the employee information they already have.

Don't freak out. Davis Bae, Shanon Stevenson and Jeffrey Winchester have worked out a 7-step guide, including what not to do, that will help you respond, will get the SSA the info they need and might even help you get your HR house in a little better order. The  seven steps:

  1. understand
  2. gauge the impact
  3. review records
  4. policies?
  6. respond
  7. I-9s

Carnac the Magnificent says – Politicussin

December 5th, 2018

Aaron Warshaw at Ogletree Deakins

What happens when political discussions in the workplace have not been addressed before the discussions get political.

Political discussions at work are a minefield at any time. Add one part holiday party, two parts booze and maybe an off-site location, mix thoroughly and you may have yourself a politicussin'.

Aaron Warshaw provides 6 FAQs and their answers so nothing progresses past politiscussions.

  1. common concerns
  2. First Amendment protections
  3. political discussions gone bad
  4. name-calling based on race or national origin
  5. limiting or monitoring social media accounts
  6. policies limiting political discussions

Biometrics in the Workplace

January 23rd, 2019

Karen Glickstein at Polsinelli

Biometrics in the workplace because it is scary for employers; it is scary for employees, it provides an additional level of security, it means taking steps to make sure you don't get sued, it requires implanting "a-device-that-you-won't-even-notice" in the forehead of each employee.

Karen Glickstein provides a list of seven YDGs (you-do-gigs) (pronounced "ya dig?" or the alternative "why dogs?" (to which I respond, "why not dogs?")) before you biometric up your workforce.

Controlling the political speech of buttons*

November 5th, 2018

Danielle Krauthamer and Setareh Ebrahimian at Fisher Phillips

Can you justify a button ban? Are you sure?

Does it make a difference if the employees wearing the buttons are union or non-union employees? Hmmm, does it?

How about the three limited circumstances under which employers may place limits and prohibitions on the clothing choices of their employees while at work? Yes, there are three!

Well, Danielle Krauthamer and Setareh Ebrahimian do know the three limited circumstances and if unions make a difference and how to go about justifying a button ban.

And they know about lots of other stuff too, like pawternity benefits for pets.

* For more information on "Controlling the political speech of Buttons the Clown", there isn't any, I looked, so just enjoy this clip of Jimmy Stewart as Buttons the Clown in the Greatest Show on Earth.

Cursing, surfing, weapons, gadgets – illegal, inappropriate or OK?

November 1st, 2018

Robin Shea at Constangy

It happens in almost every workplace almost every day: somebody swears or is on an iffy website or is carrying a knife (or worse) or is using their own (not secure) phone or computer to send off a quick business email or text.

So what is illegal, what is inappropriate and what is just not that a big a deal?

Robin Shea at Constangy has your answers (and answers your questions) at our November 14 webinar, “Not Suitable for Work?”

Credits available: SHRM and HRCI

Register here.

Election leave – employer's civic duty, migraine, or just wishful thinking (election, leave!)

October 25th, 2018

Deidra Nguyen at Littler Mendelson

As election season reaches full intensity (i.e., political ads have almost convinced you that no one is qualified to hold an elective office, let alone be a human being), Deidra Nguyen tells the story of election leave in this edition of Dear Littler:

What is the story with employee election leave? 

Costumes, booze and the Great Pumpkin – beware the office Halloween party

October 25th, 2018

Adam Gutmann

Who doesn't like a good party? Who doesn't like spending work time not working? Who doesn't like eating embarrassing amounts of candy? Adam Gutmann helps you sort out what you want (Milk Duds, Twizzlers, Starbursts) from what you don't (pencils, Almond Joys (come on, that is an acquired taste), Necco Wafers) when it comes to Halloween in the workplace, including:  

Disability/pregnancy practices – what not to practice

October 16th, 2018

Robin Shea at Constangy

If nothing else, you want to read Robin Shea's blog because she makes a good in-context Kate Gosselin reference. Of course there is "else" which includes stuff you need to work through:

  • DON'T automatically terminate
  • DON'T automatically terminate (no, I DIDN'T stutter, there are two)
  • NO 100% recovered policy
  • "TEMPORARY" can mean a lot of things, like "disability" and "protected"
  • Medical exams/questionnaires – 10 words for you: STOP CHILDREN WHAT'S THAT SOUND EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT'S GOING DOWN.

There is also a picture that is not the Official "Grumpy Cat".

IL – Required expense reimbursement for your employees, not Bill Self

March 12th, 2019

Peter Gillespie at Laner Muchin

Note to Self: Be sure to have clear written expense reimbursement policies in place before January 1, 2019.

Question for Self: Why Self?

Answer to Self: Because employers will be required to reimburse expenses or losses that employees incurred in the scope of their employment that are directly related to the services that the employee performs.

Follow-up answer to Self: And so you don't get sued.

Peter Gillespie explains to your Self (not former Illinois basketball coach Bill Self).

Public disclosure of confidential information is easier than you think

October 1st, 2018

Tina Syring at Cozen O'Connor

Just because you say something is confidential doesn't make it so. And just because an employee believes the information is confidential and thinks they are treating it as such, doesn't mean they are – think airport restaurant and an employee checking in with the office over the phone, including names, numbers and obstacles overcome in a series of sales meetings.

Tina Syring didn't just think it, she encountered it. Here's how she helps make it unencounterable.

If religious accommodation and a flu shot both equal angst, is that the transitive or substitution property?

December 17th, 2018

David Broderick at Littler Mendelson

David Broderick at Littler Mendelson is more than likely much better at math than I, and is absolutley more qualified to answer the question posed in this edition of Dear Littler:

Do we have to accommodate a religious objection to the flu shot?

Workplace shootings – 20 can-dos to prevent them

September 26th, 2018

Debra Friedman at Cozen O'Connor

20 things you can do to prevent workplace violence, from no-cost to full-blown, easy to time intensive.

No call/no show shows. No what about it.

September 26th, 2018


No call. No show. Assume they quit. Find a replacement. Move on.

Then who shows up but Ms. Nocall Noshow.

Now what?

If it's called a dress code, can I wear pants?

December 17th, 2018

Natasha Sarah-Lorraine Banks at Fisher Phillips

This blog was written by Natasha Sarah-Lorraine Banks at Fisher Phillips, which authors several of our resources.  When Strict Dress Codes Went Out Of Style: The Modernization Of Workwear “Every day is a fashion show, and the world is your runway.” – Unknown This modern-day old adage gives one permission to own their own personal...

TN: Conceal and carry means post to prohibit or permit

October 24th, 2018

William S. Rutchow at Ogletree Deakins

Yes, as a Tennessee employer, you can PROHIBIT firearms in your workplace.

And yes, you can PERMIT concealed firearms.

You just have to POST it.

Four-legged office mates and the pawternity policies they benefit

October 24th, 2018

Danielle Krauthamer at Fisher Phillips

Some of you know that we have an office dog (who also happens to be my dog Queso, pictured) in addition to other dogs and cats/kittens (Marshall, our 10-day old kitten eating breakfast on our youtube channel - Queso has several cameos).

Danielle Krauthamer at Fisher Phillips provides the four legs you will need to stand on when considering your pawternity policy:

  1. employees love their pets (duh)
  2. different types of pawternity leave
  3. more trouble than it's worth?
  4. implementing the best policy.

School-related parental leave does not mean you forge a note from your kid

September 4th, 2018

Jason Plowman at Polsinelli

Ahhh, yes. Labor Day is now behind us and it is finally time to pack up our white pants and ship our kids off to school! As your staff prepares to wave good-bye to their young-ins, you should be prepared to wave hello to requests for school-related time off with help from your tutor, Jason Plowman at Polsinelli.

Background checks of the future are continuous

August 16th, 2018

Spencer Waldron at Fisher Phillips

If continuous background checks are in your future, you need to consider the following in the now:

  1. You get what you pay for - and you can't always get what you want, or so say The Stones.
  2. Cost/benefit - worth the time/effort?
  3. Consent / legal compliance issues - is consent continuous as well?
  4. Policies and practices in place? - sure, right, you already have everything in place. Right?

Service animal pop quiz (yes/no):

  • The ADA permits assistance dogs to be with their person where members of the public can go (yes)
  • The ADA requires service dogs to be professionally trained (no)
  • Minature horses are covered under the ADA and Great Danes can be the size of miniature horses (yes and yes - I saw two at the dog park last night)

Peter Petesch at our partner Littler, suggests, among other things in this SHRM article, covering the following when handling service animal requests:

  • it's an accommodation request
  • alternatives?
  • doctor's note?
  • confidentiality!
  • what are the ground rules?

And for those of you in Philadelphia, a BONUS Littler workshop on September 6, Doggy Dilemmas: Accommodating Service Animals for Employees and Customers, complete with a demonstration from Canine Companion's assistance dog Mork.

Prepare for saying "No" – you need to decide how to refuse service

August 14th, 2018

Seth Ford and Matt Anderson at Troutman Sanders

A customer is asked to leave a restaurant because of their political affiliation. A baker refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. A cashier won't check a customer out because of the t-shirt the customer is wearing.

Quoting David Byrne: "And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

To which Benjamin Franklin might respond: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

So, go Boy Scout and be prepared.


List 10 up: What's the deal with employee handbook rules?

October 24th, 2018

Ruthie Goodboe at Ogletree Deakins


Spend 20 minutes with Ruthie Goodboe from our author Ogletree Deakins as she discusses employer work rules and employee handbook policies and practices in the podcast What's the deal with employee handbook rules?

List 10 up:

  1. covers union AND non-union workers
  2. employees raising concerns/complaints
  3. enforcement/implementation of the rules
  4. does any rule implemented by an employer not infringe on an employee's rights?
  5. good news for employers - a balancing test justification vs. employee rights
  6. 3 new categories of work rules and are they retroactive?
  7. reasons for rules
  8. unwritten practices
  9. articulate justification of rule in the rule itself?
  10. buy-in from workforce


No, you can't sleep on the job

August 1st, 2018

Shelby Skeabeck, formerly of Shawe Rosenthal

However, you can discipline and even terminate employees for violating work rules even though they have a legally protected condition.

Should you give your employees a little Slack – or do they have enough already?

February 4th, 2019

Caroline Pham and Collin Cook at Fisher Phillips

Slack is:

  1. the fastest growing business application in history
  2. two casual trouser
  3. enough rope for someone to shoot themselves in the foot
  4. all of the above

Correct. And for those unfamiliar with Slack the business application, it is a cloud-based “team collaboration tool.” In simple terms, it is Facebook Chat / Google Hangouts for the business world: an instant messaging application that allows users to send messages and share files through online conversations.

It is also one more technological "upgrade" that creates new opportunities for harassment, wage/hour issues and privacy concerns.

Caroline Pham and Collin Cook provide what to look for and best practices to help you avoid the foot shooting thing.

Zero tolerance for "zero tolerance" policies

February 25th, 2019

Robin Shea at Constangy

Zero tolerance:

  • "is too blunt an instrument, and it may even increase bad behavior."
  • "doesn't (necessarily) equate to "automatic termination."
  • "(policies) may cause management, or even HR, to pull its punches."
  • "policies can actually make it harder for employers to fight workplace harassment."

PTO on the house!

May 22nd, 2019

Kat Cunnignham, president of Moresource Inc.

Name a benefit that employees want, doesn't cost anything, reduces paperwork and can boost morale and productivity.

Paid time off.

But there are potential downsides and questions you need to ask (and more important, answer) before announcing this wonder benefit to your staff. Kat Cunningham, president of Moresources Inc. lays them out for you.

New rules for work rules

June 27th, 2018

Fiona W. Ong at Shawe Rosenthal

Everyone has rules for the workplace: don't take stuff that isn't yours from the refrigerator, don't let your stuff rot in the refrigerator, don't pretend your desk drawer is a refrigerator. On June 6, the National Relations Labor Board created new rules for work rules, grouping them into three categories and providing examples of acceptable language.

Category 1: Rules that are generally lawful to maintain

Category 2: Rules that warrant individualized scrutiny

Category 3: Rules that are unlawful to maintain

Guidelines for a valid no-solicitation/no-distribution policy

March 12th, 2019

Fiona W. Ong at Shawe Rosenthal

Guidelines for a Valid No-Solicitation/No-Distribution Policy

Many employers would like to ensure that employees focus on their work during their working time – after all, that’s what they’re being paid to do! One way employers attempt to prevent distractions is by implementing a policy that prohibits employees from soliciting their co-workers (Buy cookies! Participate in this raffle! Come to my church supper! Join a union!) or giving them written materials to read while at work.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, the following guidelines apply:

Personal hygiene in the workplace

June 12th, 2018


When you took your job in HR, you knew that you would have to face some uncomfortable situations: terminations, poor performance reviews, disciplinary actions, but perhaps the worst of all is the “we need to talk about your personal hygiene” conversation. Your staff’s poor personal hygiene can negatively effect co-workers and customers alike, and management needs to take these delicate matters seriously. Here are few ways to deal with hygiene issues in the workplace. 

1. Have a policy in place. And use it. 

As we say often, the best way to enforce rules in the workplace is to have rules in the workplace. When you have a clear policy on what level of hygiene is expect of all staff members, your staff can clearly understand what is expected of them, and these uncomfortable issues are less likely to arise. When new staff is hired make sure to go over the employee handbook with them and highlight these areas. Here is a sample dress code policy from our partners at Polsinelli that includes hygiene. 

Remote workers and the remote control

May 20th, 2019

Jill S. Kirila, Meghan E. Hill and Shennan Harris at Squire Patton Boggs

Out of sight, out of mind, out of touch.
Wrong. Just because an employee doesn't work in the office doesn't mean you should lose sight of them or your responsibilities, including monitoring, recording hours worked, overtime and policies.
Jill Kirila, Meghan Hill and Shennan Harris at Squire Patton Boggs help you regain control and answer a couple of questions.

Conducting internal I-9 audits

June 12th, 2018

David A. Selden and Julie A. Pace at The Cavanagh Law Firm

For many years, an employer that wanted to conduct internal audits did its best based on legal advice and common sense without knowing what the government would think of its efforts and if, in attempting to correct errors, it might inadvertently have created other issues. 


In December of 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS) and the OSC issued a joint document entitled “Guidance for Employers Conducting Internal Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 Audits.”  USCIS also updated its I-9 Central webpage with “Frequently Asked Questions: Self-Audits.”  An employer is still advised to consult with legal counsel if questions or issues arise while conducting an internal audit of its I-9 forms, but at least now employers have a better idea what position the government would take on certain issues relating to self-audits of the Form I-9.

Attendance policies

June 12th, 2018


Needless to say, a company can’t operate (let alone succeed) if the employees aren’t showing up to work. But how do you ensure that your workforce will consistently report for duty? One good step is having a clear attendance policy. Communicating clearly about what are acceptable reasons to miss work, how these requests should be made, and what does not qualify as an excusable absence can prevent a lot of confusion and make employees more accountable. The key to communicating these guidelines is a well-written and enforced “No-Fault Attendance” policy. This kind of policy may even boost employee morale by minimizing resentment on the part of some employees toward coworkers who suffer no consequences for being chronically absent.

Here is a deeper look at what such a policy should cover.

Nepotism: favoring relatives and friends in the workplace

June 15th, 2018


It is not unusual for multiple members of a family to work for the same employer.  However, such situations can be troublesome if the family members are in a superior-subordinate relationship because:

The Form I-9 has changed… Again!

June 12th, 2018


Immigration enforcement is a major priority for the Trump Administration. Work site enforcement and I-9 audits and inquiries by ICE have been increasing and they will continue to increase. In addition to this, yet another new I-9 form was issued in 2017. All employers must use the new Form I-9 during the hiring process by September 18, 2017.

The newest version of the Form I-9 is dated in the bottom left corner, 07/17/17, with the expiration date of 08/31/2019 in the top left corner. On September 18, 2017, use only the Form I-9 that contain these two dates, and make sure the I-9 is fully complete. Section 1 must be completed on the first day an employee works for you.

The changes to the new I-9 Form do not stop with the form itself - there were changes made to both the Form I-9 and the Form I-9 instructions.  All employers should make sure to post the new Form I-9 instructions on the wall where you have your required employment posters and have the List A, B and C page available for employees when they complete the I-9 form.

Let’s look at the silver lining! This change in the form may be a good reminder to conduct an internal I-9 audit and I-9 training to help ensure proper compliance with the immigration, employment verification, and E-Verify requirements, unless you’ve already done so when the (last) new I-9 form was released earlier this year.  

It pays to take the time to ensure your I-9s are in compliance as the fines have increased significantly.  Companies who previously had one audit are likely on the list for a second.  Those companies who already experienced a second I-9 audit and violations were noted, are likely to see a third audit.

Whew! Who knew immigration requirements and paperwork could be so dynamic?

Arizona sick day policy

June 12th, 2018

Julie A. Pace, The Cavanagh Law Firm

Beginning on July 1, 2017, under Arizona law, all employees earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  If a company has 15 or more employees, employees accrue and use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.  If a company has fewer than 15 employees, employees accrue and may use up to 24 hours of paid sick leave per year.  Exempt employees are presumed to work 40 hours per week (unless their actual schedule is fewer hours, then their actual schedule can be used).  Unused sick leave rolls over from year to year unless the employer pays for the unused leave. 

In lieu of an hourly accrual, an employer may give employees all of their sick leave hours up front at the beginning of the year.  Additionally, . . .

Vacation policies and time off

September 18th, 2019


Not all employers provide employees with vacation time, but for those who do it is wise to have a clear, well-enforced policy in place to prevent confusion and help employees understand what steps need to be followed in order to use their time off. If employers decide to to provide time off they need to make sure to do so in a uniform manner and apply the same regulations to each employee. Written vacation policies are the easiest way to communicate the requirements for taking time away from the office and to express in no uncertain terms what the employees responsibilities are for their time spent away, i.e., if they need to find a replacement for their duties or schedule their time in a certain manner. The sample policy at the end of the article can help you get started.

Employee handbooks – getting a handle on your policies

June 12th, 2018


While there may be no state or federal law requiring an employer to have a handbook, there are a number or reasons why they are in an employer’s best interest. 

  • Usefulness. It is beneficial for there to be one definitive source on the terms of employment. If an employee ever has a question as to what is acceptable or not, they know where to turn.
  • Communication. An employee handbook gives an employer the opportunity to speak clearly on important issues. Handbooks can be a podium for employers to speak out against issues like sexual harassment, workplace violence, bullying, or drug use.
  • Clarity. Employee handbooks create consistency and uniformity in an environment where many people may be involved in the management process. Uniformly enforcing policies cuts down on discrimination claims by ensuring that all employees are treated equally.
  • Protection. In the case of a trial, jurors have been found to favor companies that have clearly communicated and enforced company policies ­– even if the employee didn’t follow them. The fact that the employer has communicated their disapproval shows an act of good faith.

A job worth doing is worth doing well

A handbook isn’t necessarily a get out of jail free card. Like any tool, if you don’t use your handbook properly it can end up hurting you.

  • Keep your employee handbook up-to-date. If your polices are outdated, they may prove inaccurate and useless. Say you have a policy that only prohibits talking on a cell phone while driving, but doesn’t mention texting. An employee has the right to assume that behavior is permissible, and you might be found at fault if an accident occurs.
  • Be sure to avoid promissory language. If your handbook discusses specific timelines, creates expectations of benefits, or doesn’t clearly outline that employment is at-will, courts can find that it acts as a binding contract.
  • Don’t make the handbook into an encyclopedia. Outlining how employees should file for unemployment benefits or workers’ compensation claims can do more harm to your business than good. Avoid discussing any internal practices, and just stick to the rules and regulations your employees need to know about.

Where to start

While there are any number of policies an employer can chose to include in their handbook, there are a few that are must haves.

  • Introduction to the handbook/at-will employment statement
  • Disclaimer
  • Equal employment opportunity policy
  • Harassment policy
  • Family and medical leave policy
  • Conduct policy
  • Acknowledgment form